Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Plodding on Wins the Race

How long does it take to write a novel?

A couple of weeks ago I shared two truths and a lie about writing Breathing on Her OwnLast week I shared the lie –that the book was based on a true story. Today I want to talk about how long it takes to write a novel.

This past January I received a call from a woman who wants to leave her present job and become a full-time writer. Now understand, she has never written anything, never tried to publish anything, but has a “best seller idea.” Her first question to me was “How long does it take to write a novel?” She then proceeded to tell me she wanted to write it and get it published by June so she could work the marketing side of it to get it making enough money by September to be able to quit her present job.

I kid you not.

Is it possible to start a novel in January and have it published by June? Absolutely. Yes, you could get the words on paper and there are some very successful, experienced authors who could weave a story together, edit as they go, make needed revisions and get a book ready for publication in that span of time. They could self-publish in June without even going through a publishing house. They can do it because it is their full time job.

Possible? Yes. Probable? No.

Months to Years
But what about those folks who write a book every November? Ah, yes. NaNoWriMo or something akin to it. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Thirty days equals one book. Yes, it can be done. But to complete the NaNoWriMo task, you need 60,000 words on paper –a first draft. Not a finished product.

Are there authors who write a book in a month? Of course. And there are writers who take years to complete a novel. Most authors take whatever time they need to produce the book they have rolling around in their head, be it months or years.

I’m not talking about the first draft. I’m referring to the most final version of the story –the one you send to the publisher with every expectation it is finished.

It took me eight months to get Breathing on Her Own to that stage.

Understand that if you are working with a publishing house, from the point you submit your final manuscript until it’s actually published is about a year. That includes editing, formatting, cover design, and so forth.

Most writers are time crunched anyway.
Most new writers on the scene have other time sucking commitments. My friend and colleague, Katharine Grubb recently came out with a book called Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day: Because Your Dreams are Worth 10 Minutes. She is the founder of a Facebook writing group called 10 Minute Novelists and has a website by the same name. I’ve invited Katharine to be a guest on A Novel Creation….so keep watch.  in the meantime, check out her book and take a look at her website:

But even Katharine is not going to suggest you can start a novel in January, write ten minutes a day, and have a best seller by September. No, she’s smarter than that. She does recognize, however, that an important tool for any writer’s toolbox is time management.

So how long does it take to write a novel? The truth? From the time you start until you finish. Write a little each day. Remember: Plodding along wins the race.


  1. So she wants to write a novel in six months and have it be an instant bestseller? It must be a comedy. Thanks for the plug, Rebecca!

    1. You're welcome, Katharine. I'm excited about interviewing you for an upcoming spot here. The first Wednesday in May?

  2. Well put! There is no magic formula that fits every person perfectly giving them a 'best seller'. I am new at this writing thing and am humbled by the time and effort it takes to write daily. However, I am enjoying the process and hope one day to publish something I have taken the time to develop! Blessings!!!

    1. Keep up the good work, Billie! We are right there with you.

  3. Patience is one of the biggest lessons I've learned from writing/publishing. I started my first novel in Nov. 2010. I've written three more. Just one of those is ready for publication - 10/1/2015. Great post!

    1. Thank you, Carolyn for sharing your experience. Good reality check. And GOOD LUCK with your newest book!


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